Half Face Blades Karambito
In one of the more graphic scenes in The Terminal List, James Reece uses a Half Face Blades Karambito to ruin the day of a deserving individual who betrayed his country and its uniform for personal enrichment.
The Karambito is the Half Face Blade’s interpretation of the Indonesian karambit, a curve-bladed knife designed for the kind of work no one likes to talk about. Though the blade has its own story, the man who created this one is just as interesting.
Andrew Arrabtio is a fellow Frogman who grew up in Northern California near Napa Valley. “Bito” spent much of his childhood in the outdoors with his two older brothers, backcountry camping and studying Native American culture. “I made some knives with them when I was young on those old round rock grinders,” Bito rememberd, but that early knifemaking ended when his brothers were killed tragically in an Alaskan plane crash. He maintained his connection to his brothers through time spent in the outdoors, continuing the traditions that he’d built alongside them. His life changed in elementary school when his cousin bought him a Navy SEAL Workout book, starting him down the lifelong path to becoming a warrior.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Bito became a trained EMT during high school and spent his summers in Montana and Alaska, skinning animals and using blades, axes, and tomahawks in the ways they were intended. In 2002, he joined the Navy and achieved his lifelong goal of becoming a SEAL. He served a decade at SEAL Team FIVE and SEAL Team ONE, working overseas in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It was during his service working among America’s most elite warriors that his passion for blades was reignited in a new context. “I worked overseas with a lot of different Special Forces guys. During that time, learning combatives, hand-to-hand stuff, knife stuff, shooting guns, I learned to use knives in a new way: in the combative context.”
Andrew medically retired from the military in early 2013 but didn’t get into knifemaking immediately. “I was sitting in L.A. with my girlfriend, just thinking about making blades back in the day. I wanted to make some knives for my SEAL buddies who were deploying. I started researching new grinders and also did a lot of research on steel. I went through a lot of different steel trying to find the best one for the usage. That’s the bottom line: how is the knife going to be used? That’s what determines the correct steel to use.” Though Half Face Blades makes some incredibly beautiful knives, it was imperative to Bito that they can be used for their intended purpose. After choosing the steel and drawing out some designs, he got to work making knives for the first time since he was a kid. He made 51 knives in his first batch, working under an awning on his back porch. By the time he finished the last one, he’d sold them all.
The company’s name, Half Face Blades, has an interesting background as well. Bito is a fan of Amercian frontier culture and a student of the American West. He takes his inspiration from the way many settlers pushed through adversity and built homes from the land. When he was working overseas, he often painted half of his face black and did missions on horseback in the style of a Native American warrior. It also has a second meaning, one that relates to Roosevelt’s “Speak softly but carry a big stick” philosophy and one that the warrior caste can relate to. “Be good to people, be professional, but have another side. A warrior is going to have a violent side, that’s not a bad thing. People may never see that side, and that’s fine.” Only show half of your face, one might say.
Half Face Blades has expanded far beyond the awning behind Bito’s house, and the company now employs several other veterans. Everyone at Half Face Blades is committed to making functional products. “They’re rugged and beautiful but we use really good steel. We use high-end parts and pieces and we put them together in a way that they maintain their durability. I want a knife that’s versatile, a utility blade that someone is going to use. I can make it as tactical as they want or as lavish as someone wants, but I want it to be used. That’s the goal. People can say ‘I want a custom knife, I like red so I want red used in the knife’ and I can build that for them to personalize it but, at the end of the day it’s usable. They can smash it up and carry it on their kit overseas, carry the tomahawks. Whether it’s for guys in law enforcement or guys working overseas, I want them to use it.”
Half Face’s Karambitos range from basic steel models with micarta scales to beautiful Damascus blades with swirling exotic hardwood. My own Karambito, made for me by my friend Bito, was made with a gold SEAL Trident inlaid into the beautiful wooden grip scales with mosaic pins holding everything together. If you can dream it, Half Face Blades can build it. The Karambito is a curved blade, built specifically for use in combat. “The Karambito was designed to get in deep on the inside of legs, arms, and neck. The reason for the shape and design is to reach in and hit arteries, causing the person to bleed-out quickly. When bringing the curved blade across a stomach, the edge and angled design of the blade wants to stay in and dig deeper into the flesh. The brachial artery runs inside the arm, protected on one side by the bone. The femoral artery running on the inside of the leg is similar. The Karambito is ideal for hitting those areas and also used with a punching motion which brings the blade up into and across the target’s throat. The ring feature that the pointer finger goes through is key in keeping the blade in your hand and also allows the user to grab things and otherwise use the same hand without dropping the knife. I designed the Karambito with a 3-inch blade so it would be legal to carry concealed in lots of states. It can be mounted to a plate carrier, or on belt.” It is important to remember that, though these blades are attractive to look at, they are built for a purpose far more serious.
These days, Bito splits his time between knifemaking and working in Hollywood, serving as a military advisor, stuntman and actor for industry greats including Michael Bay and James Cameron. One of the highlights of his film career was when he served as a stunt double for the actor who portrayed fellow SEAL Tyrone Woods in the movie 13 Hours, the story of the brave warriors who fought to defend the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya against overwhelming odds. In real life, Tyrone Woods was one of Bito’s SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) instructors, and one of the men who pinned on his trident when he became a SEAL more than a decade ago. “Ty was one of the guys who pinned me after graduation. To be the stunt double for the actor portraying him was really cool.”
Bito is a dear friend and an extremely talented knifemaker. He’s a real warrior and outdoorsman who knows what goes into a practical blade. James Reece carries a Half Face Blades Karambito and uses it with devastating results in The Terminal List. This type of tool, brutal and effective, is one that Reece chose for his arsenal because it wouldn’t let him down when he needed it. It’s the same reason I am a fan of Half Face Blades; not only are they beautiful, they work.